Some more (personal) reflections on body shame

This was supposed to be a very different article when I started, but a couple days ago I read an article by a good friend on “the love that does justice” (it’s well worth the read if you’ve got the time). It’s a nice reminder to find empathy for others around us, to come from a place of deep caring rather than unbridled criticism in our communities of activism. It reminded me of all the ways in which I love the people I have around me – and all the ways in which I can’t love myself.  Which is hard to admit, and part of me prefers to not talk about it at all, but what better way to deal with internalized shame than write about it on the internet, right?

We’ve talked about fat-shaming on BIP before, and how the only way to challenge it is by sharing our stories. Change comes from finding empathy for each other and for ourselves. Having internalized that shame over a lifetime, I can say that is much easier said than done.

I don’t want to care about what people think about my body, but I’ve never been thin and it’s something that’s become a part of who I am. I’ve grown up and grown into this binary of disconnect and dislike of my body. I spend a lot of time in my own head, unaware of my physical presence. It was something I thought made me less shallow back in high school. Though in reality it comes from a place where who I imagine myself to be is not linked to presence I occupy. My ideas, my knowledge, my thoughts have value. The person that those are linked to is someone worthwhile. Then it’ll hit me, after a look in the mirror or how I should eat more protein and fewer carbs or “you’ve got such a pretty face” or any plethora of small acts I could continue listing for another paragraph. And suddenly I’m hyper-aware of the inadequacy that is my physical self. It’s a kind of self-hate that’s insidious. After a while, it creeps into all the other parts of me I thought I didn’t connect with my body.

I recently burned out pretty badly due to the unrealistic expectations I put on everything I do. Constantly-striving-for-self-improvement got warped somewhere along the way into becoming a search to achieve perfection. So everything that falls short of that became a failure. I haven’t really connected that to my body image before, spending more time not thinking about thinking about my fatness. But for as long as I remember my body has been the pinnacle of my failure. In the end everything else can’t compensate for that, it really, really can’t. Rather it gets pulled down that same vortex of self-hatred. Because if at my very core, how I exist in the world is a failure then I can never move through it successfully.

Honestly, the most tempting thing has been to find the fastest way to skinny because everything says that’s what’ll make it alright. I’ll be better because I have my body together. If I can control the pounds on me, everything else will fall into place accordingly. It’s so damn tempting yet so untrue. Because as soon as you start chasing that you realize that it’s painful in ways that are not rewarding. It’s digging deeper into the same hole I’ve always been with a shovel that everyone else approves of now. In a lot of ways, deciding to love this body feels even harder. It’s a constant decision I have to make over and over and over. Every time someone says that I’d be prettier if I lost a few pounds, every time I sit down to eat–every time I look at myself in the mirror and don’t want to make eye contact.

But I am not a failing even if I think I am. How I navigate through this world won’t be successful despite my body but because I have this body. I am worth something because of the whole of who I am. To put love out into the world, you need to find it in yourself. As incredibly difficult as that is, this is a start.

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About Manjot

Manjot [pronounced: mun-JOTE] is a fat, brown queer woman all at once and not in compartments. Spending the past four years between an undergrad in neuro and work with social justice, she’s constantly trying to bridge the two. Avid media consumer and over-analyzer, this is her first foray into blogging and building online community.

2 comments on “Some more (personal) reflections on body shame

  1. Thanks for your gorgeous vulnerability, Manjot. We’re so glad to count you as part of the BIP family! <3

    I have definitely felt the way you’re describing. There were times when I interpreted self-love as a lack of self-awareness of and total disregard for all things physical, as if ignoring the reality of my body would make my body issues go away. I think I still have a hint of that when I talk about valuing me for more than just my body (because sometimes I think I really mean “in spite of my body”), but it’s a work in progress. Thanks for giving me something to chew on, and also for sharing something that I suspect is so relateable to many of our readers.

    • Thanks for the response Lia, I’m happy to see that it’s something relateable. It’s definitely tricky to find ways to accept your body when so much of our culture is about obsessing with our physical appearance in the ways that we can make ourselves look “better”. And there’s no way to escape that becoming a terribly negative thing when you’re fat. Still trying to figure out how to acknowledge my physical presence on my own terms, in a positive way. Definitely glad to have the space with BIP to do that :)

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